The controversy over the Keystone XL pipeline doesn't get covered much in corporate television–it takes tens of thousands of activists marching in Washington to get a few words on the nightly newscasts.
But the State Department's recent draft assessment of the pipeline's environmental impact got a mention on one show, and it said a lot. Not about the pipeline, really, but about corporate media.
The comment came on the roundtable discussion on ABC's This Week (3/3/13). The panel, like so many of these discussions, was tilted to the right: A Republican mayor from Utah (Mia Love), a former Bush adviser (Matthew Dowd) and a Wall Street Journal columnist (Paul Gigot) were matched by middle-of-the-road Cokie Roberts and Democratic adviser James Carville.
So Carville's the (outnumbered) left. And at the end of the show, the pundits can bring up stories they want to talk about. Gigot, for instance, talked about how the Obama White House is pursuing terrorism policies identical to those of George W. Bush.
And when it came to Carville, he chose to talk about the Keystone pipeline. His message, though, was a little hard to follow. He started off by saying, "I hate to say this," then declared that the State Department's report "probably means that Keystone is going to be built and the environmental communities will be up in arms."
But it was hard to figure out what it was that Carville hated to say, since his actual message was this:
I'm sure the study will be questioned, but you can't diminish it. Look, if you're a Democrat and you believe in science, then if this is the science, that's the science.
Of course, there's no reason to accept the notion that a State Department review is "the science" on anything whatsoever. That's why you see an array of groups issuing critical responses to the State Department report. (The Department's argument is that the pipeline won't exacerbate climate change because the tar sands are going to be burnt anyway, which is not a scientific analysis but a–dubious–political judgment.) But the person hired to play the "left" on a corporate news show has a different message.